LONDON: The California state senate voted on Tuesday to pass a law that would allow state lawyers to sue social media companies, such as Facebook and TikTok, for features that harm children.
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat could be sued under the state’s law if a prosecutor believes the companies utilized features they knew or should have known would addict minors.
Supported by youth advocates, teachers’ unions and customer groups, the bill passed by a vote of 8-0.
“I was addicted to the place that was killing me, that was reminding me of who I would never become, what I would never look [like],” activist Larissa May said in the hearing. “There needs to be some accountability. The more that we suffer, the more money that they make.”
However, Dylan Hoffman, an executive director at Technet, testified that the measure would violate free speech rights because the algorithms used to curate content on social media platforms are a protected form of speech.
In an earlier version of the bill, parents would have been able to sue the companies for harm to their children.
However, after lobbying from business and tech groups, the bill was amended so that only government attorneys can file the lawsuits.
The measure must be approved before the end of the legislative session in August. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has not taken a public position on the bill.
In response, Meta, Twitter and Snapchat have individually lobbied against the measure.
While Meta has increased the age-verification protocols on Instagram, a Meta representative said the measure would do nothing to encourage companies to make meaningful changes.
“We want to make sure that the people on our platforms have a safe and positive experience,” said a Meta spokesperson.